13 February, 2011

Phil Neville: a dying breed of professional footballer:

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Phil takes yoga sessions under tutelage of ex team-mate Ryan Giggs (above)
When Phil Neville stops talking it’s one thirty, nearly his bedtime. 1.30pm, not 1.30am, that is. Every after noon, he gets two or three hours’ sleep. “I go home from training and I don’t put the kids to bed, they put me to bed,” he grins. “The boss said, ‘As you get older, I’m going to train you harder’, so I need more recovery.” Post-siesta, he’ll have dinner, see a bit of his family, then be back in bed for 9pm.
Phil Neville: still a Premier League footballer at 34 years old
He swears by yoga, never eats the wrong things, has just turned 34 but looks 29. Brother Gary may have retired but Phil wants to play until he is pushing 40 and his club appearances total (already past 600) touches 800. “As a footballer, you’ve got to do everything right, not just 98% of the time, every minute of the time. That’s been ingrained in me from day one,” he says.
Neville, who savours every instant of his career, who strives so very hard to preserve its life, concedes being “a dying breed”. Take the transfer window. Just before it opened, Tottenham signalled interest and in early January offered £250,000 plus Alan Hutton on loan. Then, hours before the window shut, they suddenly hiked their bid to £1.5m. Everton refused to deal. Though an unexpected swansong in the Champions League would entice any player, Neville accepted his club’s position.
PHIL NEVILLE: "You must do EVERYTHING right ALL of the time; not just 99% of the time"
“Loyalty is one of my biggest principles. I know for a fact others would put in a transfer request or throw their toys out of the pram. That was never going to happen with me,” he says. “It’s an unbelievable honour to be wanted by Harry Redknapp and a club like Tottenham, that big money was offered for a 34-year-old with 18 months left on his contract, but it’s also an unbelievable honour that David Moyes wasn’t going to let me go. Kicking off is not my style. I’ve a great working relationship with the manager and from Spurs’ first inquiry he was upfront and honest. I’m captain of a great club so I saw it as a win-win situation.
Fans will admire his stance but won’t other pros think him naive for not pushing for a move? “You can call it naive,” he says, “I’d like to think it’s clever and sensible. Putting in a transfer request, demanding this, demanding that, only works in the short term. Over a longer period you get your rewards.
Neville with manager  David Moyes
“I was at Manchester United and there were times you thought you were underpaid, but you thought, ‘I’m going to get my rewards’ — and I did, by being at the club for so long. Now a top club have come in and Everton said, ‘No’. So let’s just get on with it. I’m Everton captain, I’m well respected in the club and by the fans. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
Neville has never even had an agent. No wonder he thinks his species is endangered: “What saddened me in midweek was to look at the England Under-21 squad and see 10 pullouts. The national manager is looking to build a fresh, young England team and people are pulling out of the under-21s. I find it disgraceful, I was ashamed by it. It was Italy, away from home, for England. You should want to play in that game before any other.
“Maybe that ‘dying breed’ wanted it more than the younger generation wants it now, though there are youngsters who want it. I look at the way Jack Wilshere plays and you can tell by the hunger in his eyes. Seamus Coleman has that real hunger in his eyes.”
David Weir (CAPTAIN): STILL a top footballer at 40: an amazing example
NO MESSING:  Bryan Robson (left)
Neville wants to pass his own zealous ness on to Everton’s younger players, but do they listen? “Yeah, I think so. Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson, they didn’t just tell you once, they told you every day. And then they went on the training ground and backed up their words with actions. That’s what the older generation have done at this club,” he says. “David Weir, the other day, had been given a couple of days off by Rangers, so he came to Everton and trained. And he’s 40. That’s the example you need to set. But I do worry about the younger generation. Maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe it’s partly the clubs’ fault, maybe it’s the parents’ fault — bringing them into a world where they’re pampered.”
Moyes says that “as a leader, you can’t put into words how good he is”, extolling Neville’s appetite for responsibility on the pitch (“he wants the ball even if he’s having a nightmare because he comes from good stock, from a club that’s taught him you never hide”) and off it. He is the Everton squad’s union rep, social organiser — and scourge. He got a younger player wound up about having not been offered boots by the adidas rep and told the youngster to call a certain number and demand his gear. The number was Moyes’.
“Phil is management material, if he wants to do it,” Moyes says. Neville admits: “I think about it every day, but I haven’t got time to study because I have to put everything into my
adidas originals
football. I don’t have the time or energy to come back here and teach the academy kids. I have to have that rest to keep playing at the top. When you get to this stage — and I’m sure Jamie Carragher, my brother, Giggsy and Scholesy are feeling the same — maybe we need a little help. I’m not asking to cut corners, I want to do the same qualification as everyone else, just help.” 
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